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Have you ever heard of Mashnee Island?

Have you ever heard of Mashnee Island? | Cape Cod Life JULY 2016

The war’s end marked the beginning of a new era for Mashnee. In 1947 Stephen A. Days, Sr., an insurance company owner, partnered with Murray to transform Mashnee into a summer vacation spot known as Mashnee Village. Days built a collection of nearly identical, two-bedroom cottages on one half of the island, which vacationers could rent in summer; the other half of the island was divided in parcels and sold. Days supplied furniture in the cottages, and guests could rent televisions, cots, and other extras.

Days also built a large recreation facility that served as Mashnee’s entertainment hub. An in-ground saltwater pool provided an escape from the heat and adults could enjoy the small piano bar. Also, the beach was always just steps away. During the week, Days arranged many events: On Sundays guests could unwind watching a movie in the recreation hall; Tuesdays and Thursdays, Deb Wyman recalls, were for Bingo; and on Wednesday nights guests danced to rock music. The highlight of the week, though, was square dancing night. “It was kind of like Dirty Dancing where the people were on vacation,” Wyman says. “Only we didn’t do dirty dancing—we did square dancing.”

Wyman, who befriended many of the children who were also visiting for the summer, recalls that square dancing was for adults and teens, and the name of the “caller” who taught all the square dance steps was “Dick.” “I remember leaving the dance hall around 10 p.m., and we would all walk home together,” she says. “I remember the green flood lights that lit up the cedar trees and it was just so pretty; It was all fun, just our little world growing up.”

Jessie Murphy and her daughter El also attended these activities. Murphy and her husband, Arthur, rented on Mashnee for a few years before buying a summer home in 1984. During the first visits, the couple came with their oldest child in tow; soon, their second, third, fourth, and fifth would join them. “It was an easy place to come to,” Murphy says. “All I had to do was bring clothes for my children—and at that time it was just bathing suits for the day. It was like a complete resort.”

Mashnee Village closed as a summer resort in 1990, but Mashnee residents still place an emphasis on community activities today. Every Fourth of July, the Mashnee Association holds a parade, and generally 100 or more people participate. Children don red, white, and blue and decorate their bicycles in patriotic ribbons. One family even dresses as the Statue of Liberty every year. For Murphy and her daughter, the parade is a beloved event; it’s a time when their whole family reunites, and they can remember Murphy’s late husband, whose birthday was July 4.

During the summer, Steve Solari, a carpenter who has worked in about 100 of Mashnee’s homes and who also serves as association president, operates a hot dog truck with others near the beach. The association also hosts an annual road race in July, a chowder cook-off, and Pirates & Princesses Night, where children dress up and get to do some summertime trick or treating; after collecting candy, the crowd heads to the beach where the adults have buried treasure for the kids to find.

“Everything that has been a really good time has involved my children and all the other children on the island,” Solari says. “It’s fun watching the kids, whether it’s boating, Pirates & Princesses Night, or my grandchildren visiting. It’s always been about the kids.”

In 2016, Mashnee remains a beautiful, and somewhat hidden Cape Cod gem. Privately owned homes dot the island—including many that still feature Steve Days’ one story, two-bedroom style—and about 30 families live there year round. While Mashnee does not have any stores, gas stations, schools, or restaurants—the last, The Quahog Republic, relocated several years ago—it seems time spent with family and friends, and at the private beach overlooking Phinneys Harbor is enough. “In the mornings you wake up and the birds are in the trees, and it’s just wonderful,” Wyman says. “You don’t hear anything. It’s a paradise.”

A resident of Woburn, Michaela Anne Quigley is a junior at Syracuse University.

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